Monday, October 25, 2010

The Knot

I'm working on a difficult piece of writing that I want to share with you, but it may be some time before I can.  Once when I was having a tough time with a piece of writing in graduate school, one of my professors told me, "Put the problem into the poem."  She suggested that I write about what exactly wasn't working in order to find my way into the heart of the piece.  

To do this feels a bit like trying to untie a particularly nasty knot with your eyes blindfolded.  At first, it seems an impossible task, but as you gradually begin to trust your fingertips, you feel the contours of the thread, and what you learn as you tease out the loops and twists is that the center of the tangle disappears at the very moment it reveals itself to you.  Where there was once a knot there is now a long line running through empty space, which feels like possibility, a string to follow back out of the maze, a thread to weave, a rope on which to walk across a treacherous river.  It's not a guarantee of safety or comfort, but a guide through the hardest parts of the journey.  

I find that I can't untie the knot without trusting myself first.  Tonight, I don't feel it.  Putting the problem in the piece takes an act of faith.  For a long time my acts of faith have failed.  I know that is the point.  I know that means I must have more faith--in myself, in others, in my work.  I read that quote from Emerson and I feel it burn like a condemnation.  What if what lies within me is not the long thread of possibility but the empty space through which it travels?  What if I truly am the nothing I feel?

I went to a lecture once that the late scholar Edward Said gave on hope.  Maybe I have mentioned it before.  It stitched itself into my life more than a decade ago, and now I can't imagine myself without it. What he said boils down to (and sometimes I hear it like he whispered it into my ear alone): to create is to hope.  To face the bleakest moment and still put pen to paper or brush to canvas is to hope.  It can be a chicken and egg problem, which is where the faith part comes in.

A few weeks ago I wrote about loving even when we feel least like loving, and I think this post tonight is a mere extension of what I was talking about.  In fact, both posts are just me taking the advice of my wise professor.  I've chucked the problem right into all of my writing for a few weeks now,  and I'm still messing around with the mere surface of a knot the size of those fabled giant balls of string (or tinfoil ) that enterprising and obsessive hermits have managed to turn into tourist attractions out on dusty desert roads.  I can imagine the crumbling billboard: 


And yet I'm still writing.  It can't be all bad.  And for you, because you have been kind enough to visit my little roadside attraction--complete with a souvenir shop peddling snow globes, snake skins, and miniature replica knots on keychains--for you I have the gift of a song from the Josh Ritter show we saw this past weekend here in Portland, just a few blocks from my house.  Yes, I know it's pitch black for much of the song, but that's because he sang it in the dark, which is almost as good as a blindfold, and I promise there's a glimmer of light at the end.  


  1. You have such good feeling to all you write Gigi, keep up, keep to it, keep with it. We will wait. Thank you for sharing your wonderful tune. Much love XO

  2. I'll take one miniature replica knot on a keychain please..and oh, do you have any redpop in a bottle?


  3. You gals fill my heart to bursting. x

  4. Your words have a way of lodging into my heart, Gigi. Always after I read one of your posts I find myself with breath held. However difficult this piece of writing is, I know you will work your way through it, and the end result will be beautiful and graceful. Because that's what you are. A woman of grace. Hugs and love, dear friend.

  5. Gigi ~

    I'll stop by your roadside attraction any day ~ it is definitely the best all around! I believe in you, and my faith overflows for what I know you will do...


  6. Gigi, you're just amazing. Yes, the roadside horrorshow of Her Gruesome and Exhausting Knot can be a terror, but I take comfort in your wise prof's advice. Struggling with my own creative knot of sorts of here but in a different medium. Your post made my day, gave me hope.

    (and yes, still would LOVE to do the post!)

    Like Mel, and all your faithful readers, I have so much faith in you.

    Big hugs. Blow autumnal New England a big kiss for me, eh? xo.

  7. That's the thing with faith, isn't it? It's sort of like hope, but with logicallly misplaced certainty, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't through no fault of one's own. I'd follow that billboard sign in my borrowed American wonderwagon and tell the lost girl to set the knot and poem aside and go dancing till it resolved itself or was less important. I told Gerard Manley Hopkins that too but he paid no heed.

  8. Gigi, I've just discovered your blog this week (thanks to Ali Edwards, I think). Words can't adequately describe my a writer/photographer I can relate on that level. As an always aspiring creative, I can relate to the knot. But it seems to me you're untying it just fine! I am also enchanted with your guest posts—though frustrated because I can't seem to pull up The Dreaming Press and I so want to read more of her writing. YOUR writing touches me so much. Maybe it will even inspire me to post to my own blog, which has been severely neglected. By the way, there's actually a tiny town here in Kansas which boasts the largest ball of twine in existence. Visitors are even invited to add to it when they stop. Please, keep that hope because I plan to visit you as often as possible now that I've been to The Magpie's Fancy.

  9. Thanks for the great comments, my friends. Mise, I think GMH's knot was even bigger and more tangled than mine! Prairyk, welcome, and thank you so much. I love that visitors are invited to add to that ball of twine in Kansas! Maybe that's the equivalent of people leaving comments on this post. : ) Oh, and you can find the dreaming press here:

    xo Gigi

  10. my dear gigi ~
    i have every belief that you will untie the knot ...
    some days, and it can be many days, it seems like there is no solution and the more we try, the harder it is ... the tighter that damn knot is.
    and then one day, when you least expect it, the knot will loosen slightly allowing you to see the free flowing string of words that will spill out from you as they should ... : )

  11. You do have a soul-reaching way with words, Gigi... keep at it, you will find the answer you seek. So often in my work, in my art I have had moments where I fear there is, as you so eloquently put it, a nothingness deep with in... that what do I have that is truly special to bring forth, is there anything, anything anyone would want? Such go the question, such have the questions been at times through the years. I find my meditation practice helps me with this... it helps be bring forth my inner truth, and with a lighter feeling I find ways to share it. The knot is our ego and monkey mind talking bad. Be good to yourself, trust the good... ((HUGS))

  12. This is another beautiful, touching post Gigi. I have just emailed the quote to my daughter - she is 25 and both at a crossroads, and a standstill while she helps her mate through losing his mother. Questioning and doubting the future are part of her life right now and perhaps Emerson's words will help her understand she has all she needs within her to take her on her path when the time is right. When I want to undo my own "knots" I find it easiest to gently rub it, turning it over and over, softly massaging it; eventually the threads give a little and I can almost see how the knot was formed. Then I am usually able to unravel it. Works on real knots too! Thank you for this post.

  13. What a beautifully written post. As always. You leave me breathless Gigi, you really do.

  14. I know you have probably already untied the knot by now, but I had to send you my own encouragement and love.


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